Why the locals love it
Photos by Tim Porter
If the best things in life take some searching to find, then the community of Greenbrae is the rarest of treasures.
“It is hard to tell when you are in the city and in the county,” admits two-time Larkspur Mayor and Greenbrae resident Don Graff. “People can’t figure out where they belong.”
But wait, what is a resident of Greenbrae doing on the Larkspur city council?
“Forty percent of Larkspur is in Greenbrae; people don’t think about it,” Graff clarifies. “The creek [Corte Madera] serves as a major barrier, both physical and psychological.”
So here is the breakdown: part of Greenbrae is in the city limits of Larkspur while the rest is in an unincorporated part of Marin County. Greenbrae police services are provided by the Twin Cities Police Department, which also serves Corte Madera and Larkspur, while its fire protection and zip code are shared with Kentfield. School districts are Kentfield for middle and elementary and Tamalpais Union for high school. As for city council, Greenbrae doesn’t have one, but residents located within Larkspur city limits can be elected to the Larkspur council, although that hasn’t happened for almost 20 years.
“The area should be combined,” Graff says. “I don’t know why this little piece of county is here; it is logical to include all of Greenbrae in the city [of Larkspur].”
That opinion might not be shared by all, but one thing that everyone seems to agree on is the many charms of the city, originally named Kentmore, carved out of the hills in the 1940s by developer Niels Schultz Jr.
“They perfectly capitalized on the views,” says resident Jeanice Skvaril, who, along with her husband and two kids, was able to buy and move back into the house she grew up in as a kid. “When I first opened the door with my mom and sisters we noticed the same tile in the floor entry. We even found old cans of paint in the basement that were used to paint our bedrooms.”
The family redecorated the house—which was featured in California Home and Design about a year ago—and loves the way light streams in from large windows facing Mount Tamalpais. The light was perfect for a recent catalog photo shoot for Skvaril’s successful work-from-home enterprise, Boodalee, which sells modern bedding for children. “The photographers kept going on and on about the lighting,” she says.
And children are a big part of Greenbrae, which boasts a very attractive school system and lots of young families. “It’s really good for raising kids and when you talk to people whose kids are in school they tell you it is like getting a private school education,” Skvaril says. “We have seen a lot of turnaround; couples in their 30s with children are moving in.”
That observation is shared by Morgan Lane real estate agent Marilyn Rich, who has lived and worked in Marin County for 37 years. “Greenbrae is special because it is a favorite for the young and empty-nesters and is more affordable than towns with similar amenities,” she says. “Greenbrae makes sense.”
According to Rich, new buyers can purchase a condo (a housing option that sets Greenbrae apart) starting in the mid-$300,000s and can get into a home for an average $1.15 million. She reports that a few “fixers” have sold for under a million and, on the higher end, a few homes sold for over $2.5 million this year. Last year, about 60 single-family homes sold and closed while, as of press time this year, that number was around 33. Great pride in the neighborhoods, mature landscaping, amazing schools and the accessibility of the Bon Air Center are huge draws for new buyers, Rich says.
Going forward there are two exciting projects in the works that promise to make the area even more desirable. One is the possible construction of a new county library on the Niven Property in Larkspur, which is also being developed with homes and senior housing. According to Graff, who serves on the Larkspur Library Board, the new facility promises new spaces for youth and community meeting rooms—“everything a modern library should have.”
The other is a renovation of Creekside Park, one of two park master plan projects implemented by the county Department of Parks and Open Spaces. According to Director and General Manager Sharon McNamee, the county assessed which parks needed work and assigned priorities; Creekside Park in Greenbrae and McInnis Park in San Rafael topped the list. “The parks are in good shape but overused, and the way they are being used has changed,” she says.
For Creekside Park only minor changes are proposed, including an upgrade to the bike trail, a new children’s playground, an upgrade to the amphitheater and bathrooms, more community spaces and a repair to the bridge connecting the bike trail to the main park area.
With these projects already in the pipeline—park construction could begin as early as spring 2010—it appears Greenbrae might well be a place worth discovering.